31 OCT The long cord
Good Evening, Friends.
Some of you were curious how my bike repairs went. Well I am up and rolling, and put a few miles on today. It really wasn't too tough, and frankly it was an enjoyable escape to use my hands on something where the stakes weren't life or death! I tightened the shifter cables so I'm rockin' 21 gears, y'all! I still have to be careful shifting to the top because the sprocket guard was knocked off on a concrete T barrier long ago. Even though there doesn't seem to be a new inner tube available on base, The glue patch and slime worked out well. It is lots of fun pumping the bright green slime into the tires and hearing it gurgle around as you inflate them. Now I'm rollin' slime in both wheels so I should have moderate defenses against small punctures. It's not the punctures that get you, it's the conditions that desiccate the rubber until it cracks. I'm psyched to be mobile again, but I have to keep an eye out for the big boys. A HMMWV almost ploughed over me at Sapper circle last night. Good thing I adjusted the brakes too. I had a nice ramble two days ago and got a good look at the stately palm trees lining the Tigris (through the wire, of course, I'm still a lowly Fobbit.)
I had a chance to participate in an exchange of surgeons at one of the battalion aid stations. My stated reasons for declining on the offer were that they don't do the volume of surgery we do. They don't have the resources needed for much more than the emergency lifesaving procedures that the medics do. True, for the rare patient who can't afford to get on the helicopter and try to survive the 15 minute ride to Balad, the battalion aid station surgeons mean the difference between life and death. They operate independently in a frontier environment and get good results. But I enjoy the fact that I get to work in a place where we can give surgical care more efficiently and completely than I can back home. This place is a monster truck of a trauma hospital. Now for the truth, the real reason I didn't head out to FOB elsewhere is that I don't want to go outside the wire! Even if I survived the jaunt, I think my family back home would whip out the spare can of Whoop Ass for choosing extra risk in the name of medical tourism! Don't me wrong, when I'm needed, I go. That's why I'm here. But Billy won't be a hero, I'll keep my head low!
This week I am the B Czar of the hospital. Sounds like a lot, 'tisn't. I basically tag along rounds, make a list of stuff to do, and do it. This is what we in medical profession refer to as "SCUT." the cleanest translation I know is "Some Clinically Useful Task." The B Czar doesn't take call, but chases around the minutia of patient care. Don't get me wrong: as in many ventures, for surgery the devil is in the details. For want of a nail, the external fixitor of the femur was lost, and so on. but I would gladly take call, elbow deep in a chest full of gore, rather than take gofer work. However, it is a wonder to see our rounds at work: every specialty sends a representative. No where else would you see a general surgeon, neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgeon, ophthalmologist, nutritionist, and others rounding together on a service of trauma patients. This team approach gives us the cohesive advantage to keep these shattered bodies together. So I will do my best to be a faithful little B Czar.
I don't know how to share this right, so I have to just say it. I'm troubled because my grandmother is ill and I am too far away to do anything for her. I feel bad burdening you all with my worries, but sometimes I think the only reason I write is to keep myself sane. If I didn't have a bottle in front of me, and bottles aren't allowed in Iraq. So I release my worry here because otherwise it feeds off of me too voraciously. My grandmother is wonderful. Every time I see her she makes me feel like the golden child. Even if it is too cold and her joints hurt, she smiles at me like my visit is the best thing that could possibly happen that century. I'm sure she makes my brothers, sister and cousins feel the same way.
She makes holiday get-togethers really feel like family. She will sit at the dinner table and ask us each, one by one, how we like it where we live, or if the hospital is making me work to hard. She looks at my children and tells me that they are so beautiful. She whispers to me how pretty M. is, as if it was a big secret. After dinner she will urge us to eat more and more dessert. We must try the cake, the pie, and the canolis. We are too skinny, we have to eat more.
Grandma criticizes Democrats and Republicans with equal vigor. If the Native Americans want to make the casino bigger they are greedy. If the construction company is messing up the highway exits, they must be corrupt. She has a hand gesture ready for aggressive drivers, but with her arthritis, it's a tough one to interpret.
I'm almost 40, but she still slips me money at Christmas like a spy handing off a secret communique. Only now the crisp bills are for my three sons. I protest, though I'll never win. It would be wrong to abandon the theater of protesting. Growing up, she would always send my family home with a week's worth of dinners tucked into foil pie plates and recycled ricotta cheese Tupperware. I think she worried we might starve if she didn't! When she gives me a kiss, she holds my face in her hands as if it was something precious. Now I know I'm not God's gift to the world, but when I see my reflection in her eyes, I wonder...
I have my job over here and I'm keeping up my end of the bargain. I can't help but feel like I should be with her. It goes a long way to know that Mom and Dad live in the same town as Grandma, and two of my brothers are close by. She has her family around her. I know she is feisty so I'm hoping she will rally. It doesn't change anything to write about her here, but I can think of little else today. It is a long cord across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, but it is a bond of family so it is a strong cord. It always pulls hard, but illness makes the pull a little more painful. Grandma, my thoughts are with you to give you strength. I love you.